tirsdag den 18. maj 2010

The 200 best players in the world: 100 - 95

No wonder this is taking so long. Loosely I'm at 56 thousand writeup words and that's not including this entry or all the list recaps beginning each entry.
I do believe that's a lot pages if this was say a manuscript. As much as 200 plus. I really had no idea I had written that much.

Anyway here we go with some more, it's the top 100 at last:

Introduction to the list

200 - 101 (and every writeup+honorary mentions)


Jose Bosingwa


Right-back - Portugal

Unfortunately Bosingwa went down with a season ending knee injury early this season resulting in not only a somewhat lower ranking but also him missing the World Cup for Portugal.

Bosingwa is one of the best attacking fullbacks in the game and has pace and stamina to get up and down the wing the full 90 minutes.

He is a good crosser of the ball and while I wouldn't call him a great dribbler with exceptional control or anything like that he has enough acceleration to be a great threat anyway, and very few are better at making those overlapping attacking fullback runs.

As it so often goes with attacking fullbacks all that attacking prowess naturally overshadows his defensive game, but unlike quite a few other examples, giving Bosingwa any kind of reputation as a defensive liability would be very unjust. He is rarely caught out of position and is fast and strong enough to be a real handful for the attacking players.

Playing at right-back instead of Bosingwa at the World Cup will be Valencia right-back Miguel who was great four years ago, one of the tournament's best, but has had an up and down career since including losing his starting spot to Bosingwa.

Miguel at this point is quite a downgrade I think. He can still go forward well and is also a good athlete but not with Bosingwa's almost non stop effectiveness and he isn't very good defensively.


André-Pierre Gignac


Striker - France

The second coming of Christian Vieri?

Well that's what it seemed like to me last season when Gignac netted 24 goals on a low scoring team and impressively became Ligue 1. top scorer.

Vieri himself didn't really break through until he was around 23-24 either, same age as Gignac last season.

Very similar in build Gignac also showed similar power and some of the same type of unstoppable runs that made Vieri, despite his build, such a dynamic player at his best. There is definitely pace, and Gignac even possesses a Vieri-like powerful shot! What's not to like then?

Well unfortunately this season it's wasn't just Toulouse who were low scoring, Gignac largely was unable to find the net at all.
8 goals was his sad final tally and despite (deservedly) remaining in the France picture, and going to the World Cup, it's difficult ranking a striker still playing for a midtable Ligue 1 club, with only 8 goals to his name this season (to his credit still their joint top scorer!) very highly among the best in the world right now, even if I really like everything I see. Which I do!
I mean the prime Christian Vieri is easily one of the best strikers I've ever seen and if Gignac, like I believe, has even some of that, he is in very good shape.

Well, that is until he also gets fat like Vieri did.


Andrés Guardado

Deportivo La Coruna

Winger - Mexico

A player I haven't seen too much of this season so I hope his ranking isn't misplaced, whether that means too high or too low.

An extremely energetic and agile dribbler Guardado has enough skill with his left foot (control, shooting and range of passing) to have a good case for the highest ranked winger so far no matter what, but what really sets him apart from the many other skilled pacy wingers as of yet on this list is his great work rate. He works hard defensively as well and while he isn't strong enough to be a very good defensive player, he puts his great stamina to use and helps the team (somewhere Hugo Sanchez is scorning) in both parts of the game.

Unlike a lot of wingers Guardado is also good enough to be effective where space is more narrow in the central, even be creative there, and an interesting x-factor in his game, even if you don't see it too much when he is on the wing a lot, is some definitely above winger-average leaping ability making him a pretty good header of the ball.

Even though there is some more or less promising young attacking talent on the Mexican World Cup team, who are yet to break through in Europe, and unless there is some serious domestic attacking talent that I'm unaware of, or that the greatness that is Cuauhtémoc Blanco

is still going like he was 10 years younger, Mexico will be very dependent on Guardado for attacking inspiration. Especially you could say with perhaps a fading less dependable leader at the back in Rafael Marquez, which was what orchestrated the almost-upset against Argentina four years ago. But this time perhaps the Mexican strengths lie elsewhere.


Ricardo Carvalho


Defender - Portugal


Rio Ferdinand

Manchester United

Defender - England

The long awaited final shared ranking sees perhaps the two most gifted central defenders come together. At their best they're probably still the best at their position, but especially for Ferdinand bad health this season has meant that he just hasn't been able to contribute like the final remaining defenders ahead of him.

Carvalho has played more, yet not nearly as much as for an example his partner in the Chelsea defense. I also think Carvalho when playing, unlike Ferdinand mostly, is showing a little bit of decline from his previous lofty standards.

Their respective gifts are of course very different. Ferdinand can dominate like few others with his great physique and if at close range man-marking the opponent, can be close to untouchable. Both on the ground and in the air. A testament of this is his seemingly non existent need to foul. He hasn't played many times this season, he has only featured in 13 Premier League games, but quite unbelievably in those he has only committed 2(!) fouls and in the previous two seasons only 13 in 24 and 35 games respectively. I tried looking at different good centrebacks and no one really came close to that tally. Committing the least fouls isn't the be all of being a great central defender and other factors are involved, just like with all stats in football, but it does say something at least, and if no one at the moment is even close it does strengthen Ferdinand's case as the best defender in the world when healthy.

Interestingly the closest I could find at least (didn't look that hard it has to be said) were Daniel Agger and Kolo Toure who also have had seasons with very few fouls. Toure with 17, 23 and 15 in at least 40 games the last three seasons. There is also Pique who in La Liga this season only committed very few fouls (15 in 29) but still averaged more than one per game last season and in the Champions League as well the last couple of years.

Ferdinand is of course also known for his sound technique and right from an early age taking that very much needed aspect for the modern defender to new standards for British centrebacks.

For Carvalho who's athletic ability definitely shouldn't be underestimated just cause he isn't big and strong like Ferdinand, more than anything it's perhaps the best defensive instincts in the game that makes him so good. At his best he has close to flawless positioning, whether it's pushing up perfectly timing a defensive intervention or if it's staying back sticking, stylewise if anything, like great Italian catenaccio stoppers of the past to the attacker like he is human glue. More than any current defender he just glues his whole body almost to the attacking players doing anything needed to prevent opposition chances.

My only fear for Carvalho and why he is down here with Ferdinand despite playing more games is that sometimes he will overestimate agility and pace that perhaps isn't quite what it used to be and sometimes gamble a little bit too much. It's still rare though but it happens.

It should also be noted that Carvalho also has very good technique with a good range of passing and good control when he is occasionally going forward.


John Terry


Defender - England

Less gifted than both Carvalho and Ferdinand but starting 129 games the last two seasons overcome that gap and puts him just ahead.
That's just a contribution they cannot match and a tremendously important one to his team.

Terry is near unbeatable in the air and while not quite as excellent, a man-marker or position-wise, as the previously ranked pair, he has great tackling ability serving him very well.

That Terry isn't fast shouldn't be blown out of proportion like it often is, almost no defenders can match the attacking players in that area, and so much of defending by the whole team is geared towards preventing one-on-one races into open space and when those situations do indeed occur it will often be some kind of hole or mistake in the team defending, somewhere causing it.
That Terry is outrun by say Diego Milito isn't as much Terry's fault as its quite simply the natural order of things. How can anyone expect a different result? And it can easily be as much various midfielders jobs to prevent that situation happening as it can be the central defender's.

Finally and I don't know if it is that he has improved in recent years or if I (and everyone else it seems) have simply overlooked it, but I'm actually seeing Terry with some decent control and execution of nice passes these days. It isn't just kicking the ball aimlessly away contrary to what perhaps is his reputation.

Well, with these latest players gone we're naturally getting very close to the end of the road for central defenders on this list. This is how they ranked (using the new order):

1. ?
2. ?
3. John Terry
4. Rio Ferdinand
5. Ricardo Carvalho
6. Thomas Vermaelen
7. Carlos Puyol (Got right-back ranking boost)
8. Rafael Marquez (near the bottom of this list as a central defender but got overall ability boost)
9. Gerard Pique (Ouch! Don't like seeing him behind Marquez :(
10. Pepe
11. Simon Kjaer
12. Diego Lugano
13. Bruno Alves
14. Lucio
15. Walter Samuel
16. Philippe Mexes
17. Alessandro Nesta
18. Daniel Agger
19. Martin Demichelis (midfielder bonus boost or lower)
20. William Gallas
21. Kolo Toure
22. Cristian Zapata


Mark Van Bommel

Bayern München

Midfielder - The Netherlands

The dirtiest player in the game? And a player who wins few friends in the heat of battle among opposition players.

Personally I wasn't even aware that Van Bommel was still any good before this season. Like some other Bayern players, his reputation with me at least, had been damaged almost beyond repair by some of the dismal performances I watched from them last season and he wasn't even on the list originally.

Well, enter this season and Bayern now with a great coach, Louis Van Gaal in charge, instead of a rather clueless one in Klinsmann, and slowly but surely improvement in all areas started taking place resulting in a very strong team playing up to its potential.

Now needless to say almost Van Bommel at 33 isn't the player he was in his 20s where on top of having the qualities that he has now, was also efficient going forward and quite the threat with his shooting ability.

Twice he won Dutch player of the year being a major part in 4 PSV championships and along the way even, coached by Hiddink, even went deep in the Champions League then later won the trophy at Barcelona.

That's where the transformation I guess into a primarily defensive midfielder really began. One that is now well complete and where Van Bommel aggressively operate for Bayern.

Now do I think Van Bommel is better as a defensive specialist than the recently ranked Palacios, Song or Toulalan?

No all them are better physically and all that comes with that, which defensively obviously are integral parts of the game, but through his very own strange combination of intelligence (experience really) and controlled aggression right to the limit, or over it whenever he can get away with it, Van Bommel mostly holds his own in those departments. And as an overall player I still like him more.

The hint of a former very good two-way player just still remains, but mostly what sets him apart compared to those mentioned is his range of passing, where with his new central midfield partner Schweinsteiger who can do the same, he can really help control games for Bayern.
Whether it's great decision making in the short passing game or it's effortlessly hitting longer accurate passes from side to side stretching the opponent's team defense. Especially that, with Bayern on the wings having such excellent players as Robben and Ribery that's something extremely valuable coming from the central midfielders.

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